Wednesday, December 05, 2012

"el voto entubado" or how irrelevant our political system has become

Days keep passing and my pessimism does not lift much. In fact, even if the opposition were to manage about 10 states next December, I doubt it would cheer me up much.  To give you an idea why I remain so despondent let's talk today about "voto entubado", the latest gimmick of the electoral board, CNE, to favor Chavez camp.

Capriles asking all for Primero Justicia
In the US elections are complicated and the political culture is deliberately oriented towards a two party system, tempered through a vigorous primary activity. Since in some counties even the dog catcher is up for election so it makes sense that complex voting machines have a lever which pulls the votes for all the nominees of a given political party. Not that I approve of the measure but it sorts of forces the voters to assume their responsibility to either make their educated choice for all spots on the ballot, or support their party through and through, or just decide the top of the ticket is alone worth their care.

But in Venezuela this does not apply because the political aim is for diversity and thus the electoral system is supposedly designed to introduce a dose of proportional representation.  This constitutional provision like so many others has been undone. I am not going to go into the details on how this was achieved, plenty of posts exist on this respect. One, for example, was to have a proportion of Representatives at state level elected on a proportional basis guaranteeing that any group with, say, 20% of the vote, will get at least one seat. Furthermore the winner of the district seats were penalized at the level of state wide list seats to make sure minor groups would get a vote in the elected assembly. This has, again, all been undone, the CNE allowing fake political parties and alliances by majority groups to squeeze out minority groups, amen of extensive gerrymandering and what not.  Thus now, the opposition has been forced into alliances to make sure that they would at least get a few guys elected while Chavez party PSUV is constantly trying to absorb the fringe left into this fold, through good will or electoral shutting up.

The latest trick of the CNE has been to suddenly introduce a "vote for all" device, colloquially called here "voto entubado", voting through a single drain.... Kind of the US single lever.

Follow the hand, push once only!
See, for the regional elections you need to vote once for governor, once for the list of representatives (the former minority representation), and once or more for nominal representation which is already by itself a way to shut out minority representation the way it was done in the US old South to limit the impact of black vote. That is, you gerrymander a district with, say, three representatives. You have 40% oppo and 60% chavez but since all vote three times you get 100% chavez representation.  It all works in the other direction where districts are designed 90% oppo and 10% chavez.....  Thus proportional representation, a constitutional mandate, is dead. In 2010 chavismo got 48% votes and 60% seats in an allegedly proportional system.

But there was that pesky thing about making coalitions, bothering political parties control over their subjects.  In Venezuela there has been a vigorous tradition of "voto cruzado", where people may well vote for Chavez but a governor from A and a representative from C. And same difference within the opposition, Voting for A at the top but for B and C elsewhere. So now, the CNE obliged chavismo with the "voto entubado" where with a single hit you can vote for all candidates from the same party.

The opposition should have made a scandal about it. After all, in October 7 it was visibly clear who voted for Chavez depending on how far they were bending over the electronic board (appropriately more bending over if you voted for Chavez). Now if they bend over more than once the PSUV agents at voting stations will know for sure that the PSUV dependent/blackmailed voter did not give all of its votes to the PSUV/Chavez.

But no...  After a token protest the opposition main parties were fast in the streets promoting to hit a single vote key, Primero Justicia being perhaps the first party to do so, and certainly in Caracas, where I am these days, covering every stick as you can see above.

Now, in a way I cannot reproach that a party tries to get more votes than anyone else: this is the basic objective in normal democracies. But we are not a normal democracy, we are in fact in a dictatorship, a concept that most refuse to come to terms with.  My conclusion is that Primero Justicia (and some other participating in this game) are way more interested in being the main party of the opposition than to unseat or defeat Chavez candidates to governor and state legislative assembly.

And to add insult to injury, the dismal reaction of the opposition in general and Capriles in particular after October 7 is forcing them to spend boatloads on posters to convince folks to go and vote December 16. In the pic below you can see next to PJ those "institutional" posters with a vote on 16 D in white letters over red background. They are truly afraid of abstention and they still do not seem to understand the root of their problem, as if posters would be enough...

I am so over Primero Justica and Capriles....

Guess which is the poster that really has meaning for the driver...
I am not talking of the trash bag!


  1. Daniel,
    Seriously? All bent out of shape about the vote for Legislative Councils? Name one thing the Legislative Councils do that is important or meaningful...

    1. Supposedly they control the work of the governor, to make sure all is well spent. They also vote the local budgets. All this in theory of course.

      But that is not my point. My point is that democracy should be sought at all levels and rolling over voto entubado is a bad sign for me. Another one of many.


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